Christine Bronstein

The Power of Female Stories

There is the passing along of information.  And then there's the telling of stories. Both methods can both convey words, details, and content; but one has more power to bond us in our humanity, help us feel seen, and move us closer to hearing our own truth. Stories are powerful.

Stories of Female Connection

I was reminded of that today as I read through the essays that have been compiled in the Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection anthology. Fifty-one women opened up and let us in.

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  • I was moved by Laura Fenamore's essay as she described her journey with Overeaters Anonymous. I've never struggled with food in the same way or released 100 pounds like she did, but I know the feeling of being ashamed of your body.
  • I felt my heart in my throat as I read Aspen Baker's story about her abortion.  I've never had to face that decision, but as she described how many abortion stories she has (different ways of telling the one story) I nodded knowingly about how many different ways I can tell my divorce story-- all true, just each with a different focus. And as she shared the judgment she faces in the telling, I again nodded in affirmation.
  • When Amie Penwell described her life going from idyllic childhood with two parents to a separation that followed with her father's too-soon death and her mother taking her from one spiritual commune to another, my heart ached for her, wishing I had known her and befriended her when we were young.  I don't know what it feels like to go to six schools in two years.  But I know the feeling she described when she finally found another "wounded warrior" to call a friend.
  • Mickey Nelson's essay opens with the reading she shared at her 28-year old sister's memorial.  How grateful I am that I haven't had to suffer the loss of a sibling, but I know grief.  I resonated with her as she talks honestly about the parts of sadness that time doesn't heal.

I could go on-and-on.  I know only a small handful of the women who contributed to the essays on these pages, and yet after their vulnerability-- I feel close to them.  I saw them.

And, I saw me. Not always in the details, but in the feelings that connect us as humans.

Sharing Our Own Stories

I was reminded how easy it is to put up walls between us assuming no one else knows our pain and our stories. And while our stories may take on very different forms; what was ever clear was that there is more that connects us than we might ever guess.  We all know what it feels like to be lonely, scared, confused, sad, and mad.

I'm struck though how much of our conversations with each other are based upon information:  where do you work? where do you live? are you married? do you have kids? how long have you lived here? did you see the Giants game last night? We ask such informational questions that can leave us with an answer, but not necessarily with greater connection.

Whereas stories (i.e. what drew you to your job? why did you move here? Why is this important to you?) help us connect.  Our empathy--the ability to identify with and understand the feelings of others-- has far greater chances of being tapped when someone shares their experience rather than simply relaying information.

Today, I encourage all of us to ask questions that invite stories.

And choose in some moments to share more than just the information.

If we want people to like us and feel close to us-- we have a far greater chance of that when we're willing to see and be seen. Those moments where we don't just tell each other the canned answers, but risk adding a feeling into the sentence, a moment of vulnerability into the life of another human. Let's tell stories!  Like the women of old who sat around the campfires and passed along their traditions.  Let's show up around metaphoric campfires and really talk, connect, and share.

Congratulations to Christine Bronstein who dreamed and birthed this anthology into existence. In a day and age where much focus is given to the drama of jealousy, competition, and cattiness that can occur between women-- we'd all be blessed for reading some positive stories.  For by beholding, we become changed.  Buy the book here on Amazon TODAY.

 

 

 

 

Are We Competitors? Or, Can We Be Friends?

The moments I love the most in life are when a veil is lifted, reminding me that what I thought was true, wasn't. Just because my feelings told me one thing didn't make it so. Such was the case with Chris.

Christine Bronstein and I both had heard of each other. Numerous times. We both founded women's communities that are rooted in the SF Bay Area so it seemed we were destined to be competitors. Our names appeared simultaneously in articles and we both kept tabs on each other from a distance. Not proud of it, but I'll just come right out and admit that I was jealous of her.

In my jealousy I never wanted her failure, nor did I ever think there wasn't enough room in this city for both of us to succeed.  But, nonetheless, it still put up this silly imaginary wall.  It still triggered my insecurities. It still made me wonder if I was good enough, or if my company was a good enough concept. The belief that we were competitors left me feeling wary of her successes and slightly threatened by her legions of fans. It's nearly impossible to view someone as competition without also stepping into jealousy and judgment.

Competition, Jealousy & Judgment

The spiritual teacher side of me genuinely believes there is no real competition in this world for the things that matter.  That there is enough love, joy, and peace in this world and that as I offer it, I will receive it.  I don't have to push someone down to go up. I don't have to beat someone to feel worthy. I believe there is no one else like me in this world (or like you!) and so I trust that as we live from our authentic places that the world needs both of us doing our things differently. I can cheer for you even as I run beside you.

However, the very-real human side of me still feels threatened sometimes. In part because jealousy never feels good. I often interpret that feeling as me not being good enough or somehow feeling less-than.  And of course, when we feel attacked (even by ourselves!) we defend. We then devalue the other or inflate ourselves to try to feel better. Judgments roll off our tongue. I sometimes fall for the lie that only one of us can win this race and feel "good enough."

(Note: I'm not dissing all competition-- I appreciate what I learned on the basketball court, felt motivated by sales contests that pushed me, and still love talking trash to my sister when we play games. In fact, competition is a strength that many incorporate into their lives in ways that help them excel. Rather, what I'm speaking of is our tendency to see others as opponents when they aren't, feeling as though our self-worth is tied to specific results when it never is, or believing that we have to elbow our way through life to win something that someone else told us mattered.)

Competition is a loaded word, bringing out our desire to win and be chosen, and also stirring up our insecurities and greatest fears.

  • Some of us get married or have kids just so we don't feel "behind."
  • Some of us count money and possessions as mile markers of our success in some race we have assigned meaning.
  • As girls we've been raised to see our appearances as a way of winning attention and yielding our power, so our worth goes up and down with the scale or as we compare ourselves to those around us.
  • Some of us feel threatened if we feel our kids aren't winning their metaphoric races for popularity, achievement, perfect obedience, or any other finish line we imagine, as though it reflects on our race as mothers.
  • Some of us see our claws go up in the workplace, connecting our value to dollars earned, hours put in, and titles bestowed.
  • Some of decide we can't be friends with her because she's beautiful ("so she must be vain") or because she makes too much money ("so she must not have the same values I have") or because any other dozens of reasons we dismiss each other because we might feel threatened or risk rejection.

We all want to feel enough. I get that. I know that feeling.

But I also know it's not in winning the race that we will ever feel enough.  There will just be another race in front of you, another goal you have to reach, another win you will need in order to keep proving yourself.

There's no end until we can hold our worth right where we are today. Rather, it's in calling the race a bluff that we ironically start feeling "enough."

The Gift I Now Have

I now count Chris among my friends. And I couldn't be more proud of the work she is doing in the Bay Area for women through her network: A Band of Wives.  She practices what she preaches-- creating a culture in her community that promotes one other, lifts each other up, and helps give attention and voice to all that we're each trying to do.

Kindness begets kindness. Generosity breaks down imaginary walls of division.  Respecting each other makes us want to help the other succeed. Love overrides fear.

Owning my worth invites me to see it in others, realizing it's not something we win or bestow, rather just something we acknowledge. She has always been enough. And so have I. And seeing it in each other doesn't lessen it in either of us, it actually heightens our awareness of our own.

I'll have to blog sometime about the process, but for now, I can attest that I'd much rather have her as a friend, than as an imaginary competitor.  I shake my head to think what we might have missed out on co-creating had we stayed in the race we thought we were running.

I challenge you today to keep stepping into the personal growth of seeing your worth.  I also invite you to be someone in our GirlFriendCircles.com community that helps affirm that worth in others around you.  As we acknowledge the value of others, we will genuinely feel our own more truly and be able to help them see theirs.

A veil lifted where I can see how amazing she is without it making me feel any less so. And that is a gift I wish on everyone.

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For more reading on this blog about jealousy and competition, click here.

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p.s.  Registration on the "A Band of Wives" site is free and you'll be wowed by the events they host, the groups you can participate in, and the opportunities for partnering with amazing women. It's for women of all ages, as single and married women commit to being supportive "wives" to each other.  I hope to see you at some of their events.

p.s.s.  Speaking of events, if you live in the Bay Area-- I hope you'll come to Sausalito on Thursday night for an "All-Kinds-of-Love Pre-Valentines Bash" hosted by A Band of Wives. I'll be guiding everyone through speed-friending so it's a perfect first event to come to for meeting the fabulous women in that community!  It starts at 6 pm at Wellington's Wine Bar (300 Turney St.).  There are already 70+ RSVP's so come meet up with us!